Sounds of drills and jackhammers filled Boone Electric Cooperative’s headquarters Thursday afternoon, as a dozen firefighters walked out of one of its buildings.
Boone Electric Cooperative was lending its headquarters — in the middle of being demolished — to both Columbia Police Department and Columbia Fire Department, both of which were conducting field training for their staff.
Assistant Fire Chief and Fire Marshal Brad Fraizer explained that the fire department’s training holds two main practices: large-area search and rescues and advancing large-diameter hose lines that are hard to maneuver and heavy when charged with water. During the training, the department uses theater smoke in place of real smoke to simulate the lack of vision inside a building on fire.
With more than 130 firefighters in the department, the training has been ongoing for a week at the Boone Electric Cooperative headquarters.
“Large buildings are very, very dangerous for firefighters and citizens when fires happen, so it gives us a chance to perform more effective rescues,” Fraizer said. “We are very appreciative of what Boone Electric and Coil Construction are doing to give us this much time in [this building].”
Rgw Columbia Police Department, on the other hand, hasn’t had as much time with the building, after its first training session Wednesday. According to Community Relations Specialist Jeff Pitts, this training is meant for the SWAT team, a group of police officers specialized in events where someone is held hostage, someone barricades themselves within a structure or if someone is armed and thought to be a danger to themselves or others.
“We don’t oftentimes get a place where we can go in to basically do a full training exercise,” Pitts said. “So when we’re able to take advantage of it, it gives us a good real-life experience when we’re going into a structure, whether it is a commercial structure, residence or anything like that.”
Pitts also said the space allows for officers on the SWAT team to gain real-life training and better hone their skills and responses.
Meredith Hoenes from Boone Electric Cooperative’s Communications Department explained the circumstances behind the headquarters’ demolition.
“When we investigated really putting money into repairs, it looks to be about $10 million for 10 to 15 years fix,” Hoenes said. “When they looked at knocking everything down and rebuilding, it was $25 million and we could get 50, 60 years out of that investment, so it was a better bang for the buck to start from scratch again.”
“We love to be supporters for our community,” Hoenes said when asked about Boone Electric Cooperative’s reason for lending its space to the fire department and the police department for training. “This is an opportunity that we feel is a once in a company’s lifetime to get to do for law enforcements and fire agencies. It was a unanimous ‘yes’ for us to let them do this. I don’t know what else we can offer them besides important training that will benefit everybody.”
The heaviest part of the demolition is set to start next Wednesday, according to Hoenes. In the meantime, Boone Electric Cooperative’s office staff responsible for public correspondence is situated on Ash Street, at the Shelter’s Insurance location.